In Uzbekistan, where courts are widely believed to bend to the will of prosecutors, sexual assault charges seem like a convenient way to target critics. The charges are difficult to disprove, believable in principle, and have the added benefit of tarnishing the accused's character.
A member of the opposition Erk party, Fakhriddin Tillayev, says a naked female neighbor turned up at his doorstep last week and started screaming that he was raping her, the independent Uznews.net website reported on August 28. The woman said she would seek a medical examination to back up her allegations.
But adding to the impression that Tillayev had been set-up, during the mayhem several unidentified men rushed into Tillayev's apartment where they destroyed his computer and two mobile phones, he said. Tillayev went to his neighborhood committee and police to report the incident: The neighborhood committee did not take it seriously because of the naked neighbor's well-established drinking habits, says Uznews.net, and Tillayev was unable to find a police officer to investigate.
"I am certain that this is a provocation staged by authorities and is linked to Tillayev's public activities," Uznews.net quoted human rights activist Abdullo Tojiboy-ugli as saying.
This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that allegations of sexual assault have come close to an opposition figure.
Earlier this month, Hasan Choriyev, the 71-year-old father of Bakhodir Choriyev, the exiled leader of the opposition Birdamlik movement, was sentenced to over five years in prison on rape charges. The alleged 19-year-old victim posted a video on YouTube on August 24 claiming that Choriyev had abused her for a year.
Few independent observers believe the charges, though, because the elder Choriyev was tried in secret and held incommunicado and had been repeatedly harassed by authorities in recent years. Rather, many believe the rape allegations were designed to intimidate and hurt his son. One activist called them “revenge.”
Of course, authorities often still use traditional methods to silence critics.
On August 23, 75-year-old human rights activist Turaboy Jurayev from Jizzak Region was sentenced to five years in prison for extortion and fraud, Jarayon, a website run by exiled human rights activist Mutabar Tajibayeva's Fiery Hearts Club, said on August 27. Jarayon said that the elderly man had been found guilty even through witnesses had withdrawn their evidence.
And last month, human rights activist Nadejda Atayeva, who lives in exile in France, was sentenced in absentia to seven years for embezzlement. Atayeva told Moscow-based Fergana News in an interview published August 29 that the criminal charges brought against her and her father were due to expire in 2014 so authorities sentenced her in absentia because they "are annoyed by the work I do."